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You think your bike is secure? Think again.

Bicycles are incredibly easy to steal. They are not designed with security as a priority, they are light enough to carry away and they provide the means of transport for a fast gettaway! Add to that the fact that they can be vauable and easy to sell (today there were more than 37,000 for sale on Ebay UK) and there is no wonder that more than 300,000 bikes are stolen every year in Britain.

Who steals bikes?

There are two types of bike thief; the opportunist and the professional. There are far more of the first type than the second, but you have to protect your machine from both if you want to keep it for a long while.

Opportunists will take just about anything that they can sell quickly so even your cheap runabout can fall victim to them. Professionals will usually only target bikes worth more than about £500 and they normally work in two man teams. They can come equipped with all kinds of tools ranging from small lock picking kits to heavy duty bolt croppers; and even high powered battery operated angle grinders.

So, how do the thieves do it?

1) No security.

About 20% of stolen bikes have no security whatsoever. The owner goes to the shops, leans it against a wall and nips in - after all shopping should only take a few seconds! Easily long enough for a passing low life to grab it and pedal off.

More than half of bikes are stolen from the owner's own home. After all they are safe enough round the back of the house, or in the garden shed aren't they? Not from a local thief who has told his mates where it is often left, it's not.

2) Poor security

Do you keep your bike in a locked shed? A quick twist with a small crowbar and the hasp and staple can be ripped off.

Do you use a cable lock? The cables are composed of multiple wire stands twisted together and wire cutters, which can be carried in a pocket, can be used to 'nibble' through them easily.

What do you lock your bike up to? A Sheffield cycle stand set firmly into the ground is ideal but there is not always one handy. Too often bikes are attached to insecure street furniture.

3) Reliance on expensive locks

A quick search on google will get you all kinds of information about picking locks. You can even buy kits on Amazon for less than £25, complete with transparent plastic training locks, to let you hone your skills. There are books on the subject and online forums where 'enthusiasts' teach each other the best ways of cracking the latest so-called thief proof locks. There is no such thing as an inpickable lock. Don't rely on the manufacturer's claims!

A good picker can usually open even the most sophisticated lock in seconds.

4) Reasonable security, but for the wrong parts

Many cyclists secure their bike frame to something solid. Sometimes the cable can be slipped off by removing components like the seat or handlebars; no self respecting bike thief would go out without a set of allen keys. Even if this can't be done the wheels will always fetch a few pounds and many of them are quick release, which is the ideal design for the enterprising thief.

Some even secure the front wheel to the solid object. It only takes a few seconds to take the wheel off and substitute another.

5) A real attempt at security but no match for the well equipped thief

A problem a cyclist has is that any security equipment that is carried on a bike has to be fairly light weight. This is not compatible with strngth and thief resistance.

Even the most high level security equipment on the market cannot be guaranteed to protect a bike from a well equipped and experienced thief. Short of fitting expensive high tech tracking devices, which at least give you a chance of getting the bike back if you are fast enough, all you can expect is to deter the opportunist and hope that someone else's bike is pinched instead, or make it slightly more difficult for the professional.

A typical bike theft - opportunists

A thief will walk past your bike, take a good look at it and work out whether it is well protected or not. If not he'll take out his wirecutters and snip through the cable if there is one, and pedal off. The bike will be sold the same day to a 'friend' who will pay a fraction of it's value but will have the right contacts to dispose of it at a good profit.

These people are often caught eventually but penalties are too gentle to deter them and there are so many of them that even when one ends up in prison there are plenty of others ready to fill the void.

A typical bike theft - professionals

A motorbike pulls up with a pillion passenger onboard with a rucksack. He (sorry to sound sexist but it usually is a 'he') takes out a large heavy duty boltcutter and chops through the padlock, cable, or D shackle that you thought would give you lifelong guaranteed protection.

The whole operation takes only a few seconds; the motorbike zooms off and the passenger pedals off on your bike. Passers by don't notice them or ignore them; after all who wants to challenge a couple of burly guys, one of whom is handling a heavy steel tool? CCTV is no use because they both wear helmets and the bike probably has a cloned number plate anyway.

These people target more expensive bikes which they can sell on for 50% or so of their actual value. They will often sell them in bulk to equally professional fences. The bikes will be stored away from their homes, in case they contain trackers, and if they are raided by the police there will be nothing to find. Often, if they are expensive machines, they will go straight into steel shipping containers where tracking systems will be ineffective.

Earnings can be very considerable and many professional thieves have normal jobs or businesses so they can keep up an appearance of respectability.

Next - how to keep your bike as secure as possible

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